When it comes to a baby’s fever, the best thing you can do is to be prepared and don’t freak out! Here’s everything you need to know about what to do when baby gets a fever, how to treat it and when to visit the doctor.
1. Baby has a 38-degree fever but is still active. Should I bring her to the doctor?
Fever in itself is not an illness. It’s usually a symptom of an underlying problem and is the body’s way of fighting the germs that cause infections. Fortunately, most fevers in children are due to minor infections and resolve themselves in a few days. In fact, mild to moderate fever is known to shorten the duration of a number of common illnesses. Most fevers with viral illnesses range from 38.3 deg C to 40 deg C, and last 3 to 4 days. They may be associated with other symptoms like cough, runny nose or diarrhoea. In general, the fever at its height doesn’t correlate with the seriousness of the illness. What counts is how sick is your child.
2. When is the fever a sign of something serious?
If your child remains well and active, you may choose to monitor her for 2 to 3 days. If her fever rises above 39 deg C or if she seems to be getting sicker and has any one of the following symptoms, go to the clinic immediately:
Little one has difficulty waking up. Fever may make her sleepier than usual, but she should be woken up easily and be able to interact and respond to you.
She seems confused or drowsy.
She has difficulty breathing or has noisy breathing
She has difficulty sleeping or refuses to eat.
She develops a rash or small, bruise-like spots.
She cries constantly and cannot be settled.
Her urine is cloudy or smelly
Her skin colour changes to grey, pale or blue.
She has a seizure.
3. She always spits out/struggles to take her medicine. What can I do?
Most doctors will give you a syringe for the medicine. It helps if you can cradle baby with her arm tucked under yours, and your hand clutching her other arm. With your free hand holding the syringe, carefully angle it towards the back of her mouth and slowly dispense the medicine. The liquid will then slip down her throat without her tongue being able to push it out. you can also stroke her throat to encourage her to swallow.
4. Can high fever cause seizures, which lead to brain damage?
It’s a common misconception that high fevers (above 39 deg C) cause brain injury. In fact, it’s not fever per se but the underlying cause of the fever – such as brain infection and severe pneumonia – that may lead to this injury.
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5. My newborn is running a temperature. Should I bring her to the doctor?
Yes you should! Infants, especially those younger than 3 months, should get early medical attention if they develop fever about 38 deg C. The source of the infection has to be investigated and treated appropriately. Fever medication, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, is not suitable for newborns and may mask the severity of their illness.
6. Why does baby get a fever after a vaccination?
Most children don’t have any reaction to vaccines. Among those who do, most have minor location reactions (pain, swelling or redness at the point of injection) or mild fever. These go away within a day or two and don’t normally require any special treatment.
7. Will drinking plenty of water a day before the vaccination help prevent her from falling sick?
There’s no evidence that this will help. Some doctors may advise that you give your baby a dose of fever medicine before visiting the clinic. This is especially helpful if she tends to develop a fever after a vaccination. Most doctors may, as a precaution, prescribe a course of medicine after the vaccination. You can offer it if she has a temperature above 38 deg C, or becomes fussy.
8. The elders say “cooling water” like homemade barley will lower baby’s fever. Does it really help?
For older infants and children, any drink – including barley – is useful. The point if to have your child stay well hydrated because a fever will cause him to lose fluids more rapidly. But such “cooling water” may not significantly bring down the temperature.
9. Are cooling patches effective in bringing down the temperature?
Such cooling therapy can make your child more comfortable. While it may temporarily bring the temperature down, the therapy won’t return it to normal. It won’t treat the underlying cause for the fever, which is usually an infection.
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